800 Words star Bridie Carter on wellness and resilience
800 WORDS STAR BRIDIE CARTER OPENS UP ABOUT THE DARK TIMES THAT MADE HER STRONGER, HOW BEING OUTDOORS IS KEY TO HER WELLBEING, AND WHY SHE’S SHIFTED HER BODY GOALS
It’s a challenge finding time to look after yourself when you’re super busy, although ironically that’s when you need it the most. For actress Bridie Carter, right in the middle of what she describes as the busiest time of her life, there isn’t much chance of achieving a lasting balance between work, family and me-time.
“My life is hectic and I accept the chaos,” she says, cheerfully.
Starring in TV drama has meant a long period of commuting from her home in rural Byron Bay to Auckland, where the series is filmed. Even if she can only make it back for 24 hours to be with her children, Bridie says it’s worth jumping on a plane and heading across the Tasman. And when she’s at home with sons Otis, 12, and Tobias, seven, they are her top priority.
“I don’t sacrifice my children for myself,” she says. “Instead of going to a gym class, I’d choose to be with them. I think most working parents can identify with this; there’s not a lot of free time, you’re kind of last on the list.”
So there isn’t a hope of making it to the yoga and zumba classes she used to enjoy. These days the great outdoors is Bridie’s gym. After starring in the iconic series McLeod’s
Daughters she fell in love with rural life and now she and her husband, former fashion designer Michael Wilson, own and run a cattle farm and a firewood business. That means when she isn’t focused on her career Bridie can be found packing firewood bags or out in a paddock bottle-feeding the premature calves. “I’m always busy. If there’s a moment to exercise I grab it. My favourite thing is to walk the bush track near where I live.”
Being active and connecting with nature is vital for her sanity as well as her physical fitness. “With health you can’t just look at one thing; each part of it connects to another. If I’m not exercising I just don’t feel good. For me being active is about getting out of my head and into my body. It’s about mental health, spiritual health and all of that.”
Tough life lessons in her youth have taught Bridie the importance of caring for her mind as well as her body. She was only nine when her mother died. Kiffy Rubbo was a well-known art curator in the 1970s, beautiful, talented and very loved.
“She was an incredible woman, which makes it even sadder,” says Bridie.
As a child she coped by blocking out her grief. But it never goes away and later on Bridie went through some dark times. She came through it and, with help, has emerged a stronger and more compassionate person, living a life of sobriety.
“I know myself pretty well now,” she says. “I think we’ve all got stuff from our childhood but I’ve gone there, looked at it and moved on. I’m free of my past.”
Bridie has been sober for 21 years now. She doesn’t judge others for enjoying a glass of wine and usually is the one to top up everyone’s glasses. “Either you’ve got a drinking problem or you don’t,” she says, adamantly. “If you think you have then you probably do. All I know is, I don’t do it.”
One legacy of her mother is a love of eating healthily. There were never any fizzy drinks or junk food in their inner-city Melbourne home. “I grew up in a bohemian, artistic family so we weren’t allowed white bread or cordial,” Bridie recalls. “Instead it was a jug of water with mint leaves and fresh lemon juice, and brown bread. As a teenager I wanted to eat rubbish for a while but I’ve always naturally craved healthy foods really.”
The whole family is gluten-free and are pretty much sugar-free also. “But I’m not a nazi about it,” adds Bridie, who is the cook in her household. “I have Italian blood so for me food is about breaking bread with people and sharing time. I’m into abundance in
‘For me being active
is about getting out of my head and into my body’
my life, in good ways. You will find a secret stash of chocolate in our pantry!”
Her boys, and 20-yearold stepson James, who also lives with them, all have voracious appetites. “We sit down at the table every night and have a meal together. No one is taking plates into bedrooms with iPads. That’s a part of wellbeing too, connecting with others.”
At 46, Bridie is in a very happy place. She looks great, with glowing skin (she swears by the SK11 range to hydrate and nourish it), glossy hair and a still-girlish figure. Still she admits she’s had her worries around self-image, just like every other woman.
“I have a curvy figure, not a boy body with no hips; and I remember being younger and wanting that. Today, at my age, I hope I embrace who I am, although I think if you’re completely honest you’re always aiming for something.”
Rather than impossible slenderness, she has more realistic aims nowadays – a body that’s strong and fit, properly hydrated and getting enough sleep. “Although there’s a saying, ‘no one ever died from lack of sleep’, and I’ve hung onto it many a time!”
One advantage of starting acting training at the age of six is that she got an early grounding in relaxation techniques. “I went to classes at Bouverie Street Theatre in North Carlton and can remember lying on the floor doing meditation and breathing,” says Bridie who learned quickly that an actor has two physical tools, their body and their voice, and to do the job well it’s important to look after them.
Acting is how she earns a living and it’s also Bridie’s passion. She’s loved her time on the hit show but the series that occupies the most special place in her heart is She may have given up playing Tess McLeod in 2006, but Bridie still gets fan mail from all over the world and people still stop her in the street to tell her how much they loved it. It was also a show where strong friendships were formed and new passions born.
“I loved mustering cattle, that was my favourite thing,” says Bridie. “Being connected to the horse and the land, there was something wonderful about that.” She laughs as she recalls exaggerating her skills as a horse rider to get the role.
“Then Lisa Chappell (the Kiwi actress who played her sister Claire) and I were sent to a farm in the Hunter Valley and they put us on horses and videoed us. When they saw the footage everyone had heart attacks!” Fortunately there were real horsemen and women on hand to share their skills and by the time she left the series, Bridie was so comfortable on horseback she’d stay up there between takes.
“I was so sad saying goodbye to my beautiful horse when I left the show.”
On her Byron Bay cattle ranch there is plenty of land to ride, but Bridie has been reluctant to get horses as eldest son Otis is severely allergic to them.
“We found that out in Italy when he was three,” she recalls. “We were by the Spanish Steps in Rome. They have these horses and carts there and he was in my arms when I patted one. As we started to walk up the steps, he had an allergic attack. The next moment we were in a taxi on the way to the paediatric hospital.”
Fortunately Otis isn’t allergic to the cows Michael breeds on their large property. The boys are being raised very much as rural kids, out and about on the farm with their parents. “I love that they’re in nature all the time,” she says. “It’s so important in this age we live in that is so filled with technology.”
Farming has taught her kids some valuable life lessons of their own.
“It’s life and death out there. Last year we had a cow called Queenie (no, they don’t all have names!) that we had to put down and my kids were with us patting her as we said goodbye. Then we buried her and explained why it happened. I think that’s a great thing for children.”
Having lost her own mum so young, Bridie always longed to be a mother herself and now she treasures her family and the big, messy, busy, chaos of their lives together.
“I’m a pretty grounded person,” she says. “But this is all a juggling act and I can only try to do my best. I never do it perfectly but I do try!”
‘We have a meal together
every night. That’s a part of wellbeing too,